GL F IV 3.9.2 Cases where method steps require specific data processing means and/or require additional technical devices as essential features

Where not all the steps of the method defining the invention can be implemented fully by generic data processing means, defining claims as in formulations (i)-(iv) in F‑IV, 3.9.1, may not suffice to fulfil the requirements of Art. 84. Furthermore, in such cases, claims of different categories have to be construed and examined separately with respect to novelty and inventive step.
In particular in applied fields such as medical devices, measuring, optics, electro-mechanics or industrial production processes, method claims frequently involve steps of manipulating or interacting with technical physical entities by using computer control. However, these method steps are not fully performed by the computer and require specific technical means. If the invention involves an interaction between data processing steps and other technical means such as a sensor, an actuator etc., these technical means must be comprised in the independent claims if they are essential for carrying out the invention. An objection under Art. 84 may arise if the claims do not define which steps are carried out by the data processor or by the additional devices involved, as well as their interactions. The same applies if specific data processing means (e.g. a particular parallel computer architecture) are required as opposed to the generic data processing means described in F‑IV, 3.9.1.
1. A method of determining oxygen saturation in blood in a pulse oximeter, comprising:  
– receiving in an electromagnetic detector first and second electromagnetic radiation signals from a blood-perfused tissue portion corresponding to two different wavelengths of light;  
– normalising said electromagnetic signals according to steps A, B and C to provide normalised electromagnetic signals;  
– determining oxygen saturation based on said normalised electromagnetic signals according to steps D and E. 
2. A pulse oximeter having an electromagnetic detector and means adapted to execute the steps of the method of claim 1. 
3. A computer program [product] comprising instructions to cause the device of claim 2 to execute the steps of the method of claim 1. 
4. A computer-readable medium having stored thereon the computer program of claim 3. 
Remarks: The method has a step which is executed by specific technical means (the electromagnetic detector) for receiving electromagnetic radiation signals. Therefore, the electromagnetic detector has to be defined in the device claim because it is an essential feature for executing the method. In this example, the device claim may make reference to method claim 1, since it is clear how means for executing this method are to be implemented.
However, a computer program making reference only to claim 1 would lack clarity, because such a program could not be executed e.g. on a general-purpose computer which does not have an electromagnetic detector. Therefore, it must be clear from the program that it is to be executed on the specific device of claim 2.

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EPO Guidelines - F The European Patent Application

EPO PCT GL - F (not assigned)

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